I have spent much of the spring terms life drawing sessions drawing with highlighter pens. I am intrigued by the visual impact using these pens give to the drawing. Different colour pens give different qualities with the orange and pink, perhaps, providing the most ‘trippy’ experience.
The unique quality that these pens give however does not always translate when attempting to reproduce them. Computer scanners do not transfer the luminous quality digitally, photographing the drawings seems to be the best option, however, the fluorescent colour is best reproduced in a modest light which helps lifts the colour but at the expense of a darkened paper .background
Over the years, and because it’s particularly useful in my role as an art & design lecturer, I have kept my own version of a Commonplace book, a book where I would jot down all manner of facts and information that I feel may prove useful to me at some future point. Quotations, poems, ideas, and plans- all find their way into these notebooks (I now have a good number of them) alongside which I also place information that is somewhat mundane and prosaic-notes from work meetings for example. When I began teaching as a career I quickly realised that the obligatory staff/work meetings that I had to attend were an ideal place to sketch. My work colleagues who were present and, as a consequence, being somewhat static and focused elsewhere, presented ideal opportunities for impromptu portraiture.The caricature style of the sketches are a reflection of the drawing technique that I use. I focus on the face of the person and do not look at my notebook as I draw- and I then draw quickly, in this way I avoid the ‘nodding head’ action that accompanies the act of looking at the sketchbook and then the subject, after all, I do not wish to draw attention to myself (I am expected to be attentive to the meeting after all) or to make my subject self conscious or embarrassed should they become aware of my interest. This approach allows for surprisingly accurate likenesses at times.These drawings are not meant to be ‘serious art’ and drawing in notebooks, as opposed to using a sketchbook, releases me from any expectation as to the quality of work I often feel I need to producing– I can just have a bit of fun.
These sketches have been completed over the past 15 years. Many colleagues have now retired or moved on to other jobs and these drawings serve as a record of individuals who taught me a lot about the craft of teaching.
Life drawing (drawing the human figure) continues to play a central role in both my teaching and art practice. I view the attending of life drawing classes as akin to going to the gym- a technical and creative workout. During those few hours in front of the human figure I am presented with an opportunity to practice those all important observational skills; skills acquired through the practice of giving full attention and focus to the subject. In the process I can also explore ideas around line, form, shape and tone. I also have the opportunity to experiment, and become familiar, with a range of media, techniques and technology whilst enjoying the company of like minded people both models and fellow artists.
During my life drawing sessions I have often drawn my students as they focus on the model. Their intense concentration and attentiveness has always fascinated me. Life drawing can be an exhausting activity and observing them, as they struggle with their drawing, can be quite revealing.I often witness many emotions; flashes of frustration, a suggestion of anguish, brows furrowed in disappointment and, at times expressions of wide-eyed elation on those moments when all is going well.
All this emotion! Little wonder when you consider that, as an activity, drawing the human form, challenges many pre-conceived assumptions about how we understand the human body. It also lays bare, and insists, that you face up to, and address, these limitations in both ones’ understanding and technical inadequacies. This self critique and examination is necessary if one is to progress and can be a very difficult & humbling experience to undergo.
Alongside the hard work, however, there is also the thrill of the breakthrough. That excitement that comes from the gaining of new insights, and the encouragement provided by witnessing the slow acquiring of knowledge, skill and technical competencies that were not apparent before.
Media; pencil, rubber and a small A6 sketchbook (size approx’)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was one of a number of books I read after graduating from art school in the late 1990’s and to which I turned to for inspiration and subject matter for my illustrations/paintings. Like so many others who have read Lee’s, until recently, only novel, I loved the book. It is beautifully written, poignant with a serious and disturbing main storyline which is viewed and told through the eyes of a child, Scout Finch. Yet it is also funny, and in the inspirational character Atticus Finch (Scout’s father), it has provided me with one of my three literary heroes.
The paintings formed the bulk of my first exhibition held in Gallery 96 on Kings Street in Cambridge (sadly since closed). I enjoyed taping into the rich visual opportunities provided by the period the story is set that of 1930’s, depression era, Alabama, in America’s south, and I indulged, and mined, freely from the written and visual art of the period, including the works of John Steinbeck, Ben Shahn, Romare Bearden, Dorothea Lange and of course the movies of 1930’s Hollywood.
All paintings are acrylic on stretched cartridge paper. Series painted 1999.
Images created using a process which involves collage use of a flexigon, Photoshop and Ipad app (Snapseed)
For a number of years I have been commisioned by St Pauls Church here in Cambridge, to produce 5 advent images for presentation on each Sunday service in that season up to and including Christmas day. Each year the vicar, Rev Micheal Beckett, comes up with a serious of themes which he develops in each service with the aid of the accompanying image.
I use these commision to develop ideas around techniques, composition and effective visual story telling. There is always a deadline one that gets smaller and smaller as Christmas day approaches, due in the main to me spending a lot of time on the first two illustrations leaving very little time for the final three. On average each take around 4 days to complete (on and off) from initial sketching out of ideas to sending the complete image to the printers. The final images are printed on to foamboard and are A1 in size. They are wrapped up in Christmas wrapping paper. Children are invited to unwrap the image in the service.
I try and do a fair bit of reading around each theme and hope they do the job that is asked of them.